Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Still Time to Place a Bet

The horses are at the starting gate for the two big prizes of the week – the Presidency of the European Union and the High Representative for Foreign Affairs. Belgium's Prime Minister Herman van Rompuy is reported to be the frontrunner for the job of European Council president, but his rivals include Dutch Prime Minister Jan-Peter Balkenende, former Latvian President Vaira Vike-Freiberga and the UK's former Prime Minister Tony Blair.

Italy's former Prime Minister Massimo D'Alema and Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt are reported to be top contenders for foreign affairs chief.
Poland is suggesting that each candidate should present their ideas to the full Council of Heads of State before voting, with the winner being chosen by simple majority voting. Sweden will determine the process for selection, since they are the current holders of the rotating Presidency of the Union.

There is a strong backlash against the position of France and Germany, which may favour the compromise candidacy of anyone but Rompuy or Blair, with some strongly supporting the Iron Lady, Vaira Vike-Freiberga. But its anyones guess right now.
Paddpower, the online betting company, has two clustered close to the top of the odds - Rompuy (4/9) and Blair (4/1), with Blair showing a late resurgence. A total of eighteen candidates are in the Paddpower frame – the long odds being for Mary Robinson (former President of the Irish Republic), who is running at 25:1.

Unlike horse racing, form tells us little about the likely outcome. We do know that Blair is unlikely to be a compromise candidate – his ego is too big and you are either for or against him. The problem is that the front runner, Rompuy, has strong views about EU integration and the need for a EU wide tax to support the development of the EU, which is very unpopular in many EU states.

It is widely thought that the EU will make a decision on Thursday. Poland’s intervention – asking for interviews – may delay this decision. There is still time to place a bet.

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